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Discs for review may be sent to:
Jonathan Woolf
76 Lushes Road
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Paul LADMIRAULT (1877-1944)
Cello Sonata (1939) [17:51]
Louis de Caix D’HERVELOIS (1680-1760)
Suite for viola da gamba and harpsichord (or cello and piano) arranged by Alexandre Béon [12:12]
Jean-Philippe RAMEAU (1683-1764)
Les Fêtes d’Hébé: Cortège d’Eglé (transcription by Maurice Maréchal) [7:54]
Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)
Werther – Clair de lune [4:37]
Jacques OFFENBACH (1819-1880)
Les Contes d’Hoffmann – Barcarolle [2:43]
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Liebestraume No.3 [4:09]
Song of the Volga Boatmen [3:05]
Benjamin GODARD (1849-1895)
Jocelyn – Berceuse [4:22]
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)
The Carnival of the Animals – The Swan [3:03]
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Etude Op.10 No.3 [3:02]
Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907)
Peer Gynt – Solveig’s Song [4:15]
Maurice Maréchal (cello), Cécile Ousset (piano)
André Lévy (cello), André Collard (piano)
rec. 1958 (Lévy and Collard) and 1959 (Maréchal and Ousset), Paris

The focus of this release is on two eminent French cellists who were contemporaries, Maurice Maréchal and André Levy. Their recordings were made between 1958 and 1959.

Maurice Maréchal was born in Dijon in 1892 and after initial cello studies there he progressed to the Paris Conservatory under the tutelage of Jules Loëb. He took the first prize in cello in 1911. After some war service he became principal cellist in the Lamoreux orchestra before embarking on an international concert career. He also became a professor at the Paris Conservatoire. He died in 1964.

Maréchal’s career was coming to a close when he set down these documents in 1959 with Cécile Ousset, who was more or less at the start of her career at the young age of twenty three. I haven’t previously encountered any of the three works. Paul Ladmirault’s Cello Sonata dates from 1939. The composer is largely forgotten today, which seems unjust. Although the work is conservative, in the sense that it doesn’t break any new ground, it has immense appeal for its melodic largesse and freely flowing manner. The atmosphere of Brittany permeates the sonata, as it does in all his music. He was patriotic about his Breton roots and was a fervent campaigner for the region’s self-rule and cultural independence. Two outer animated movements frame a dreamy and ethereal central Andante, which showcases the cellist’s sense of line, instinctive phrasing and rich burnished tone.

Caix d'Hervelois’ compositions centre around the viol. Here we have his Suite in D major arranged by Alexandre Béon. These dance movements are elegant and nobly etched, and Maréchal characterizes them in tastefully stylistic fashion. There were times in this work that I felt his tone production rather effortful and strained, though he was, at this time, at the end of his career. Rameau’s Les Fêtes d’Hébé: Cortège d’Eglé is played in the cellist’s own transcription. I agree with my colleague Jonathan Woolf, who also reviewed this disc, that his intonation could be a bit wayward at times, but it doesn't detract too much from a delightfully musical reading.

French cellist André Levy was born in Paris in 1894. As a contemporary of Maréchal, his earlier years followed a similar trajectory. He, too, studied cello at the Paris Conservatoire with Jules Loëb and also chamber music with Camille Chevillard and was a first prize winner in 1912. He spent a great deal of his life teaching, after the war at the École Normale de Musique de Paris. This was in tandem with a performing career. In 1952 he got together with the pianist Geneviève Joy and violinist Jeanne Gautier to form the Trio de France. He died in 1982. He recorded a very fine set of the Bach Cello Suites, which I greatly admire.

His programme here is of much lighter fare than Maréchals, as he confines himself to encore pieces, recorded in 1958. They are all well-known favorites. His accompanist is André Collard. Levy’s tone is smaller scaled than Maréchal’s, perhaps lacking that burnished lustre. Nevertheless, it is pure and focussed and his intonation status is generally good.

Forgotten Records’ superb transfers truly bring these valuable recorded documents to life.

Stephen Greenbank

Previous review: Jonathan Woolf

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